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Besides wishing Apple a happy birthday, this issue takes a look at how to order System 7.5 Update 2.0 on CD-ROM and Open Door's Home Door multihoming software for Web servers. Also this week, we have information on QuickDNS Pro, a new math library for Power Macs, and a "preview" edition of Netscape Navigator 3.0. Finally, we finish up with part 2 of our interview with Darryl Peck.
Copyright 1996 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
By the way, this is a real issue of TidBITS. No April Fools jokes in here. Honest. [ACE]
Happy Birthday, Apple! On this day in 1976, Apple Computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Pretty soon Apple will be old enough to drink alcoholic beverages in most states - that ought to make for some more optimistic production estimates! [ACE]
Greg Marriott Attacked -- We seldom cover news of this nature, but occasional exceptions are in order. Greg Marriott, a long-time Macintosh programmer responsible for parts of System 7, among many other things, was surprised and brutally attacked in his apartment a few weeks ago. With five blows to the head and numerous stab wounds, his attackers left him for dead, but he managed to call 911 and was rushed to a hospital. (He's now doing fine, especially in comparison to the alternative.) I mention this horrible event because Greg's attackers were several months under 18 and can be charged as minors in California. Greg and his friends are trying to convince the District Attorney to try them as adults. If, after reading Greg's account of the ordeal, you agree, there are instructions on a Web page set up by Greg's friends for adding your voice to the hundreds of others who have written to the DA (who is receptive to this support) about this case. The Internet is often accused of distancing us from real life; here's an instance of how the Macintosh community on the Internet can make a real difference in the real world. [ACE]
TidBITS on TV -- In August of 1995, Tonya and Geoff and I were filmed for a 13-part television show called Life on the Internet. It was produced for the Canadian Discovery Channel, and a few Canadian readers spotted us on the show about email (along with Steve Dorner). One of them was kind enough to send us a tape of our episode so we could see it. Other than their editing out Geoff [Fine by me! -Geoff], we were quite impressed with the quality of that show, and if the rest of the series is at the same level, it's well worth watching (or at least taping). In April of 1996, PBS will start airing this series throughout the U.S., although the times and dates may vary with your local PBS station. (The extensive Life on the Internet Web site claims our local PBS station is tentatively planning to air the series in May, for instance.) [ACE]
Apple to Lose $700 Million -- In a press release last week, Apple CEO Gil Amelio announced that Apple anticipates posting a net after-tax loss of about $700 million for the second fiscal quarter. About half of the charges are related to inventory write-downs and another quarter to restructuring charges. Amelio said, "I'm confident at this point that I know what the problems are and that they are fixable," and he said that Apple would begin to articulate recovery plans in early May. [ACE]
QuickDNS Pro 1.1 Released -- Men & Mice of Reykjavik, Iceland has released QuickDNS Pro 1.1, which brings a fully-featured domain name server to the Macintosh. QuickDNS Pro 1.1 can provide primary, secondary, and recursive name service, and it includes a scriptable domain editor that eases setup and administration of domain name information. Also important is QuickDNS's support for round-robin DNS, which helps distribute load between a number of servers. Round-robin DNS is generally used to make several Macs running Web servers appear to be a single server, thus transparently distributing the traffic among them. QuickDNS Pro 1.1 costs $295 (upgrades from 1.0 are free) and you can download a 14-day evaluation copy from the URL below. Men & Mice -- (+354) 525 4938 -- (+354) 525 4991 (fax) -- <email@example.com> [ACE]
Motorola Math Library for Power Macs -- Mark Granger has compiled a shared library for Power Macs running System 7.5 or later that accelerates Mac OS math functions. The library is built using the math library from the Motorola C/C++ Software Development Kit, and users claim it can provide as much as a 25 percent speed increase on floating point math operations, which could greatly benefit some applications. If you don't use your Power Mac to do heavy calculations, this library probably won't help you, but if you live for transcendental functions, it's worth a look. [GD]
GeoPort News -- A common question we receive at TidBITS concerns faster versions of Apple's GeoPort Telecom Adapter. We often avoid writing about unreleased products because such articles tend to result in a flurry of messages asking where to buy the unavailable product. However, MacWEEK recently reported rumors Apple aims to release a 28.8 Kbps version of the GeoPort Telecom Adapter this summer, but it will only work with Power Macs. Given the trade-offs of the GeoPort Telecom Adapter, I always recommend a true 28.8 Kbps modem instead. [ACE]
AISS Upgrades -- In TidBITS-317 I commented that upgrades for the software bundled with the Apple Internet Server Solution 1.0 depended on each individual software company. Some, like StarNine and Bare Bones have been good about providing updates, but that's not guaranteed. However, Kate Wormington of Apple tells me that customers who purchased the AISS 1.0 on or after 01-Sep-95 can order PageMill directly from Apple's order center at 800/950-5382 x759 for the cost of shipping and handling. In addition, updates to a few other programs are available on Apple's Server Solution Web site. That site will reportedly soon contain links to some of the developers of the software that comes in the 2.0 bundle, complete with upgrade discounts. Apple eventually hopes to set up one-stop Web ordering for these upgrades. [ACE]
Netscape 3.0 Preview -- Netscape has released a "preview" edition of Netscape Navigator 3.0. Though many of its new features are currently only available for other platforms, the release is Open Transport-native and offers preliminary support for Internet Config, improved navigation through Netscape frames, and enhancements to mail and news. The release also features ToolTips similar to Microsoft Office products that display an essentially useless description of a few parts of Netscape's interface - fortunately, these ToolTips can be turned off. This release supports Java on Power Macs (68K support is "in progress") and expires 15-Jul-96. The download is a little over 4 MB in size; be sure to check out the release notes if you plan to download. In my brief testing, the release didn't prove to be particularly stable. [GD]
by Tonya Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Given that the latest news on our fast Internet connection is that US West might have it in by mid-May (year unspecified), Adam and I decided to forgo the monstrously large download of the System 7.5 Update 2.0, and instead purchase a CD. It turns out the CD (or the disks) can only be purchased through Apple, or through a Macintosh User Group. To buy the update from a User Group, you must belong to the group. Last week, I investigated three possibilities: Apple, AMUG, and BMUG.
Apple -- In Geoff's extensive look at the update in TidBITS-318, he suggested calling Apple/Claris at 800/293-6617, extension 984. It took some patience to get through, but I did verify that the CD is available for $13 plus tax (but no shipping charge). I learned that there is no non-800 number to call, and Apple will not ship outside the U.S., except to APO and FPO addresses. The Apple representative quoted me a shipping time of 14 working days to six weeks.
AMUG -- The Arizona Macintosh User Group is offering the AMUG Tech 1.0 CD in DealBITS this week, and the CD does seem like a good deal. For $11 plus $5 shipping ($10 international) you get not only System 7.5 Update 2.0, but also - as you might expect - a one month AMUG membership, plus 800 games, 500 Internet tools, the contents of the Apple FTP site, the AMUG Internet Installer, and several movies of commercials, including Apple's classic 1984 ad. You can also upgrade your one-month membership to a year, or join for a year and get the CD free. AMUG will take orders via email at <email@example.com>, via a Web-based form, or by phone at 602/553-0066. I don't know if AMUG is ramped up for enormous volume, but the woman who took my order said it would go out the next day, and that I should have it in about three days.
BMUG -- After buying the AMUG CD, I learned that BMUG is also selling a CD with the System 7.5 Update 2.0 for $12 plus tax (shipping and handling is free to U.S. addresses; $5 to international addresses). The CD also includes 29 MB of goodies from the BMUG essentials folder and includes First Class BBS software for connecting to Planet BMUG and BMUG Boston, as well as QuickTime movies, software demos, and so on. To buy the CD from BMUG, you must first join the group, and prices for joining start at $45 per year. BMUG will take orders by phone at 510/549-2684 or 800/776-2684 or by fax at 510/849-9026.
Remember, whether you order from Apple, AMUG, BMUG, or another source, the CD is an updater; you must use it in conjunction with an installed version of System 7.5.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The ability to serve multiple domains from a single Mac is perhaps the most commonly requested feature on mailing lists related to running Macintosh Web servers. Although various hacks and partial solutions do exist, Open Door Networks' HomeDoor offers this feature by itself. A five-domain "lite" version of HomeDoor comes bundled with the Apple Internet Server Solution 2.0, with a special $249 upgrade to the full version, which normally costs $400.
If you haven't the foggiest idea what a multihomed Web server might be, the basic situation is that multihoming enables a single Web server to respond to "http://www.companyX.com/" and "http://www.companyY.com/" with different default pages. Although it's easy to assign companyX and companyY domains to a single Mac running a Web server, there hasn't been any good way to coerce the Web server into serving different default pages for different domains.
Why would someone care about this feature? The answer boils down to the fact that if someone guesses at the URL to a Web site, they are likely to guess at "www", plus the company name, with ".com" at the end. (You can just type a company name into the Location field in Netscape 2.0, and Netscape will automatically guess that the URL is formed in that way.) If that Web site shares a server with another site that uses a different domain, it's normally necessary to use some sort of shared default page that directs people to the right set of pages for each domain. But that's not particularly slick, and a lingerie retailer might not want to share a default page with some monster truck dealer.
Previous Solutions -- In the past, there have been a number of less-than-popular solutions to this problem. First, because it's easy to serve pages from different servers, some people have set up something like a cheap Mac LC to serve just the home page for the second Web site. All subsequent files live on the main server, say a Power Mac 6150. That works, but requires a number of cheap Macs equal to the number of different Web sites you want to serve from the same Web server. Using multiple Macs works especially well if the different Web sites are equally popular, since the multiple Macs can help spread the load rather than concentrating it on a single machine.
Second, you can run multiple copies of your Web server, each using a different port number, but no one is likely to guess at a site's custom port number correctly.
Third, since Unix can provide this multihoming capability, another solution has been to install Tenon's MachTen, a flavor of Unix that runs on the Mac. Although this solution also works, it requires buying MachTen and dealing with Unix as well as the Unix httpd server, which isn't a task for those who have never used Unix seriously.
HomeDoor -- Now, however, HomeDoor provides multihoming without requiring any additional programs or machines. It sits at a low level of the Mac OS (Amanda Walker of InterCon postulated it essentially wraps the Ethernet driver) and accepts incoming requests for multiple domains, redirecting each one to a different default home page. There is a slight catch, though, because the location field in a Web browser doesn't display the URL the user entered (the "clean" URL), but instead the URL to which HomeDoor redirected them (a "dirty" URL, because a Web browser typically reports the actual URL retrieved). The HomeDoor Users' Guide contains a workaround that comes close to solving the problem. See the HomeDoor FAQ for more details.
HomeDoor has become a popular utility for Macintosh Web servers that want multiple virtual domains, but it's not quite as clean as multihoming on Unix machines, where the returned URL isn't "contaminated" in any way. For the moment, though, it's the best solution available on a Macintosh.
Late Breaking News -- Highware has released MultiHome, a $189 CGI for WebSTAR that provides multihoming capabilities. It requires the Web browsers used by users support "pushpull" and even with that, users see a page listing the domains served by MultiHome before they're automatically shown the proper page. Also, as with HomeDoor, the URLs reported by the Web browsers are "contaminated" with a directory after the proper virtual domain.
Open Door Networks -- 541/488-4127 -- <email@example.com>
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Welcome to the second and final installment of the Darryl Peck interview. Last week, in TidBITS-320, Darryl, <email@example.com>, talked about how he became a Macintosh enthusiast and his experiences in running Inline Design. He also talked about how he became interested in Web-based commerce and founded a Web-based store, called Cyberian Outpost, which sells hardware and software.
[Darryl] We do a substantial amount of Mac business that adds up to more than half our total business. As for Apple, I guess I just don't get it. When a $12 billion company loses $69 million, it is not time to start playing Taps. I mean, this is a tiny drop in the bucket for Apple, especially since they are sitting on well over $1 billion in cash. If anything, the good thing that came out of this is the replacement of Spindler. My gut tells me that Apple is in much better hands now.
I, for one, do not have any fear whatsoever of Apple going away. The platform is so much better in so many ways, I cannot imagine everyone just up and changing to Wintel. The recently announced Motorola deal will help, but Apple does desperately need to get Copland out the door at any cost. The Mac OS is starting to show its age, and frankly, although I hate to say it, Windows 95 does certain things a whole lot better than System 7.5.x. Please, don't throw eggs at my door...
[Darryl] Well, yes and no. Since we are not going to become a mail-order company there is not much point in thinking about it. We feel that there are a few companies that do mail-order real well, and we are not going to go in and beat those guys at their own game. However, in what is may be a retail first, we have done so well online that we recently opened an actual retail store at our new headquarters. So, in fact, we do not exist solely online.
[Darryl] Probably trying to deal with lots of "good" problems. In only nine months we have become one of the three largest retail sites on the Internet, and one of the top one hundred computer retailers in the U.S. We have doubled our sales every 90 days since we opened in May. This is a huge amount of growth to handle in a short period of time, and to be honest, it has led to a few problems. At times we were unable to get inventory coming into our warehouse fast enough to meet demand. And, our customer service sometimes fell below our own strict standards. We have taken fast and dramatic steps to catch up with our growth and continue to add staff constantly.
Other than that, I think we have had a pretty smooth nine months. Our partners in Virginia, Symphony Marketing Group, have done an excellent job of keeping our server up and running 24 hours a day. We have the hardware and software in place to handle huge amounts of traffic and so far everything has worked just great.
[Darryl] I'm glad you asked. Yes, we use the secure Netsite server from Netscape. However, we secure only the ordering section of our site, since using security on any page slows it down tremendously. Web browsers cannot cache secure pages, so although we had the entire site secured at the beginning, we realized that was just slowing things down for no reason.
We all know that there has been a huge amount of press about the security concerns regarding net commerce. Frankly, I find this to be more hype than reality. If anyone sat down to compare the amount of credit card fraud generated in, oh, let's say restaurants, to Internet commerce, there would be no comparison. I would bet last year tens of millions of dollars in credit card fraud stemmed from basic restaurant purchases. If even a tiny fraction of credit card fraud came from Internet commerce, I would be surprised. The bottom line is that credit card abuse and fraud is already rampant and is costing business billions of dollars a year.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is the merchant who is at risk. We do not get paid by the credit card company if we take a bogus or stolen card. That's it. Plain and simple. The person who had their card stolen is not responsible for anything. Yes, the credit card agreement says they can hold you accountable for up to $50 if you do not report your card stolen, but in most cases they will not charge this fee, especially since in this day and age the physical theft of the card is irrelevant to the use of the card.
Having said all this, Cyberian Outpost does verify the billing address on every charge, we have systems in place to notice suspicious activity, and we do not store credit card information on any computer attached to the Internet. We also take orders and payments in more traditional ways, so people who aren't comfortable with transmitting credit card information over the net don't have to.
[Darryl] Also, we work very closely with law enforcement officials to track down and prosecute those who engage in credit card fraud. In fact, we recently participated in a sting operation with the state police of New Hampshire and the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. It was all very exciting.
I'm confident that the forthcoming security protocol from the Visa/MasterCard alliance will provide everyone with an ultra-secure way to conduct commerce on the Internet for the long haul.
[Darryl] We have looked into most of the e-cash schemes and have chosen to sit on the sidelines for now. Interestingly, we have had fewer than five requests for e-cash payment options. I think there are several problems here. First, it creates a barrier to commerce. Although it is not a great difficulty to download and use a separate piece of software to pay for something, we feel it adds unnecessarily to the process.
Second, there are competing standards and that is never a good thing. We knew all along that Visa and MasterCard would get together and agree on a common standard. I think for e-cash to become useful, a common standard is necessary. Just who will lead the charge here I don't know, but I certainly wouldn't bet against Dan Lynch and the people at CyberCash.
Third, I am not sure I see the use of e-cash for general purchases of hard goods. E-cash gets very interesting when you look at payment for information or micropayments. When you start talking about paying $.02 for a page of a report, or $.10 for a stock quote, it is clear that credit cards are not the way to pay for this. However, when one is purchasing a $50 piece of software, credit cards are the best option. By the way, I should point out that some of the e-cash companies we talked to told us that we would not receive payment from them for a period of 90 days from the transaction date. With credit cards we get paid in 24 hours. So you can see, we were in no rush to mess with e-cash.
[Darryl] I think there are lots of differences in shopping at Cyberian Outpost, but I can't say that there are huge differences in ordering. MacConnection (and some of the other larger mail-order houses) has always done a great job at customer service, and we didn't think we were going to blow them away at their own game. But, we did feel strongly that we could create a much better and more pleasurable shopping experience.
How? Well, the key to us was obvious. Use the technology to its fullest. While we love the fact we do not stuff your mailbox with paper made from dead trees, we knew that being environmentally friendly isn't enough. We needed to provide more information in a more easily accessible way.
For instance, a typical product description will contain the basic details, a brief description, a longer description (sometimes several pages of data, thanks to unlimited electronic real estate), the system requirements, sometimes a review, a screen shot, a box shot, a downloadable demo if one if available, and in many cases, updater and patch files for the particular product.
The main attraction of Cyberian Outpost, and by far our most popular feature, is our New Arrivals page. We have a huge advantage over retailers who don't operate on the Internet in that we can tell you when a new product is released within hours of the release. We can also keep everyone up-to-date on expected ship dates of hot new products. We update this information all day, every day.
The New Arrivals section of our store is so popular that our customers begged us to create an electronic newsletter version of it so that they can get the listing delivered each week (OK, so we haven't been good about getting it out each week. We're working on it...) directly to their mailbox.
In addition, we expect to offer electronic distribution of software as an option soon. So when you need something right away and bandwidth is not a concern, we will work with vendors to provide instant gratification. We believe that the majority of our customers still prefer getting the whole package the next day, but we realize that some want the option of downloading, so we will make it happen soon.
And, of course, our biggest advantage is our ability to do business globally. With a local phone call from most anywhere on the planet, customers can happily browse the aisles of the Outpost for as long as they like. We do a huge amount of business overseas and now have all the ordering and customer service information available in six different languages right on our home page.
Another thing we do differently from many other resellers is that while we now allow vendors to purchase certain spots on our site for low fees, we do not allow a vendor to "buy their way in" to our product selection. If we carry a product it is because we choose to carry it. No one pays us to carry anything. This also enables us to write reviews of the products we carry (which admittedly we are a little behind on. Any volunteers out there, send email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>). An example is when Microsoft Word 6.0 for the Mac was listed in our store. Our brief description read, "The Mac word processing standard. At least until this version came out." So, as you can see, while we have every interest in selling as many copies of Microsoft Word as possible, we are free to be honest about the products we carry.
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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